Trustee adds contributing factor to Hales Corners budget fight

Published on: 11/29/2011

Hales Corners - Trustee Daniel Besson lost this year's battle to cut the amount the village reimburses employees for their health care deductible.

But he vows a rematch: 'I will be back next year to continue the fight,' he said.

'The fight' is over an $85,000 line item in the village's 2012 $7.9 million. That figure is the amount the village reimburses employees for their health care deductible, which is $1,500 per employee a year.

Under the plan, an individual would pay $65 of the $1,500 deductible, with the village picking up the remainder; a family would pay $150 a year.

Besson argued to have that amount increased, noting that private employees generally pay 40 percent of their health care.

'I do think that a $1,500 deductible is not outrageous to pay for a family, even an individual,' said Besson, who favored phasing in a plan to increase employees' contribution. 'We have to bring people into the real world.'

He said municipalities at one time had to offer 'luxurious' benefits to retrain and attract employees, who were paid less than their private sector counterparts. 'That's not true anymore,' he said.

'The village has always had really Cadillac health care plans,' he added.

In the past, those plans couldn't be touched if the employees were represented by a union. Now, with the passage of state budget reform bill, Act 10, that's not the case. 'This year, it could have been looked at very seriously,' Besson said.

The Village Board, however, approved the 2011 budget with the $85,000 intact.

Trustee Linda Teschendorf, a member of the village's Labor Relations Subcommittee, said extracting the $85,000 from the budget was not possible. She said the village is in contract negotiations with the Police Department, and police were excluded from Act 10, which means they can still negotiation health care benefits while other public employees cannot. Of the village's 37 employees, 17 are police officers.

Further, she said, steps have been taken to reduce health care costs in Hales Corners.

'It's not like this village has done nothing,' she said, noting that the premiums Hales Corners pays decreased in the 2012 budget.

Village Administrator Michael Weber said Hales Corner will pay $592,000 for health insurance in 2012, down about 10 percent from this year's $662,000 cost. He said the reduction is due in part to increasing the amount employees contribute toward their premiums, which is now around 12 percent.

'I think the trend has been that employees are picking up a greater proportion,' he said.

Weber also said that, while the budget has been approved, health care costs can and are reviewed often.

'I think the entire topic of health insurance is revisited by every employer, public or private.'

Teschendorf said, too, that trustees are 'working our way toward' reducing the amount the village reimburses employees for their health care deductibles.

At the same time, she opposed totally eliminating the benefit in one fell swoop. 'To have a hit like that, it's pretty substantial. I don't care who it is, public or private.'